How Builders Can Contribute to Zero-Energy Efforts

How Builders Can Contribute to Zero-Energy Efforts

With so many energy efficient innovations underway in the field of construction, it’s now easier than ever for builders to contribute to zero-energy efforts. In fact, they must recognize the significance of sustainability and how it impacts the future of their business.

After all, residential and commercial sectors now consume around 40% of the nation’s fossil fuel resources. Additionally, growing concerns regarding climate change and the future of building materials have resulted in a shift toward zero-energy efforts in the construction industry.

But why are these sustainability ventures important and what benefit do they offer to builders themselves? Follow along to learn more about how builders can contribute to a zero-energy lifestyle while reaping the benefits.

What Is Zero Energy & Why Is It Important?

Zero-energy buildings are structures that don’t consume more energy than they produce. In other words, as defined by the International Living Future Institute, “one hundred percent of the project’s energy needs [are] supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis.”

You may be wondering how that’s possible. But this radical solution is already fast on its way to reducing our carbon footprint and changing the planet. While still an ambitious project, each year it becomes more and more affordable for everyday homeowners and business owners to achieve their zero energy goals.

Regulatory oversight from state and federal governments means homeowners are slowly moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Commercial business owners, on the other hand, are driven by profit incentives and corporate sustainability goals to reach zero-energy status.

Net-zero-energy status has the power to shift the tides of climate change. If all new constructions were built to a net-zero standard and existing structures retrofitted to meet net-zero specifications, our nationwide carbon footprint would be reduced by nearly 40%. That would represent an overwhelming win in the fight against climate change.

Benefits for Builders

Homeowners aren’t the only ones who benefit from net-zero buildings. As a builder, you may be wondering what personal benefits zero-energy efforts can offer you. Besides the massive impact carbon neutrality would have on society as a whole, there are tons of reasons why builders should contribute to the movement.

Financial Returns 

If it’s money that motivates you, it’s time to do your research on sustainability and building! Energy conservation systems are just some of the surprising features that add value to your home. That’s why investing in net-zero efforts in the construction industry pays off big in the long-term, whether it’s for your own house or those you’re building. Buyers are more likely to pay a higher price for a home with modern, energy-efficient upgrades.

Helping Combat Climate Change 

This one should go without saying, but constructing net-zero buildings goes a long way toward fighting global climate change. Everyone must do their part, and builders are in the unique position of being able to contribute to the energy efficiency of homes everywhere. Not to mention you’ll feel good about the work you’re performing and its potential to benefit the planet.

Being on the Cutting-Edge of Building Technology 

It’s important to stay up to date on all the latest technological developments in the building industry, and most of these innovations are taking place in the clean energy field. When you design homes for the future, you show an astute awareness of industry trends and do your part to enact positive change. You and your clients will be all the better for this initiative years down the line. Invest in the future by participating in this massive shift in the building industry now.


How to Contribute to Zero-Energy Homes

The biggest way builders can contribute to zero-energy homes is by simply making structures as energy-independent as possible. There are a variety of ways to achieve this goal, and some of the most widely-used techniques include:

  • Installing solar panels.
  • Using energy-efficient HVAC systems and appliances, such as induction cooktops.
  • Making sure the structure is airtight.
  • Performing all construction with non-toxic materials and finishings.
  • Using advanced fresh air systems.
  • Making use of solar design principles.
  • Integrating LED lighting.
  • Maximizing efficiency of water systems.

You may have such a knack for energy-independent building that you become a zero-energy professional. As a builder, that means you’ve developed the necessary skills and competencies to design energy-efficient home packages for your clients’ individual needs.


Reap the Benefits of Zero-Energy Construction

No matter your reasons for getting into the net-zero construction field, chances are you’ll never want to leave. The industry offers plenty of opportunities for career advancement as technologies progress and clean building practices become more accessible. Do your research to learn about how to cost-effectively build zero-energy homes, and you’ll be on the road to success in no time at all!


Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.

3 Steps for Building Carbon Neutral Houses

3 Steps for Building Carbon Neutral Houses

The world has been focused for years on designing environmentally safe cars, but what about homes? We spend more of our lives in our houses than in our cars, especially since the pandemic. Shouldn’t we focus on making them as healthy and environmentally friendly as, say, a Tesla?

Yes, we should—and many builders already are. I know because I am one of them, and I represent thousands of other green builders as CEO of the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA). Our movement has been around for more than three decades, but today it is gathering steam—and evolving.

Our primary focus thus far has been on energy efficiency. Our work, bolstered by federal programs like ENERGY STAR and the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home Program, has helped catalyze the adoption of energy-efficient tech like solar panels, electric appliances, and better forms of insulation, to name just a few. Still, too many traditional homebuilders refuse to utilize these efficient techniques.

Ultimately, however, energy efficiency is a means to an end, with the end being reducing the carbon footprint of our homes. Focusing primarily on energy efficiency may not be the best way to shrink our carbon footprint, because so much of a house’s environmental impact comes from building materials such as concrete, steel, and fiberglass, which throw off massive amounts of carbon when produced. Further, many localities are transitioning energy grids to electric power, which lessens the burden on homebuilders (and homeowners) to use alternative energy sources.

Don’t get me wrong, energy efficiency will always be a central pursuit for green builders. But increasingly, it isn’t enough. So what if homebuilders begin by focusing on the “end” of carbon reduction? How might our means of achieving it change?

It’s a question that green builders want to answer, and we’re committed to working with policymakers, academics, environmental champions, and every other stakeholder to figure it out. This task is urgent now more than ever, as builders scramble to meet spiking demand for new and affordable housing. Many houses built today will stand for 100 years or more (much longer than the eight-year average for cars), so the stakes are high for our planet and for human health.

I believe there are three steps that must be taken to put carbon reduction front and center in the home building marketplace.

1.    Create a standard benchmark for evaluating the carbon footprint of houses

The practice of measuring the carbon impact of homes is known as carbon footprinting, and it’s easier said than done. There are many factors to consider. Do we include the lawn in the calculation? How about the concrete driveway or septic tank? Do we factor in the extraction and production of the building materials, or only their impact once the home is built?

The way we answer these questions matters less than the fact that we answer them. Agreeing on a standard benchmark for carbon footprinting, regardless of what it includes, will give us a scoreboard for measuring progress and evaluating the effectiveness of green building efforts. It will also empower homebuyers to shop and compare houses on environmental merit.

Some cities have recently passed measures to require carbon footprinting of homes. But without a benchmark, builders who only care about bottom lines will find ways to cut corners and cheat measurements. That’s why we at EEBA, and others at like-minded organizations such as the Endeavor Center and Natural Resources Canada, are exploring ways to create a calculator for carbon footprinting. We invite all stakeholders to join us in the effort.

2.    Establish a carbon offset market for residential homes

Once we determine the carbon footprint of a home, what do we do about it? The answer lies in carbon offsetting.

Here’s how it works. If I built a house with a 100-ton carbon footprint, I could effectively erase that footprint by going to a carbon market and funding 100 tons worth of carbon reduction. This might mean investing in methane recapture, a wind farm, or planting trees. The current price of a carbon offset is around $60 per ton, meaning I could write a check for $6,000 and offset the footprint of the house I built.

So far, carbon trading for residential homes is unheard of. But as more cities enact climate action plans that require footprinting, interest in offsetting will increase. Just as green builders want to develop a standardized calculator for carbon footprinting, we want to join with others in normalizing carbon offsetting for homes. The health of our planet and our families is worth every penny. 

3.    Establish realistic rules for green homebuilding on the federal, state, and local levels

Today, government programs and regulations regarding environmental building are few and far between. Many states do not even have statewide building codes, which leaves it up to each municipality to set its own rules. Localities that choose to enact climate action plans often don’t know where to begin, and their efforts fall prey to lobbying from well-intentioned groups that don’t understand the costs and considerations of homebuilding. The result is either a total absence of rules, or a patchwork of unrealistic and hard-to-follow regulations.

Green builders are eager to pull up a chair and join these discussions. We want to provide guidance that can help avoid the situation we’ve seen in Fort Collins, Colorado, where even the greenest builder in America (there is one, and I know him) can’t build houses because the rules aren’t feasible. That’s why we’re in the process of establishing a board of advisors to work with cities on designing effective environmental building standards.

This effort has implications not just for the environment, but for affordable housing. As demand grows for single-family homes, many consumers are priced out of the market.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can have it all. We can have healthy and sustainable homes that are entirely affordable for many or even most families. That is our goal as green builders: to build affordable, net-zero, carbon-neutral houses. We know many others share our passion, including a new generation of home builders, and we hope they’ll join our movement.

Currently, our Inventory of Zero Energy Homes and the UN global registry of carbon-neutral buildings list not one residential home in the United States. In five years, they could list thousands. But that will depend on what we do next—and on who steps up to join us.


Originally published on

Aaron Smith is the CEO of EEBA and Board Treasurer of Team Zero.

Ann Arbor Passive House Utilizes Mitsubishi Electric

Ann Arbor Passive House Utilizes Mitsubishi Electric

When building their new high-performance home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Eric and Jo Ann faced the integral challenge of constructing a house that not only ensured energy efficiency but was able to do so in the region’s cold winter temperatures.  

With the help of architect Michael Klement, AIA, NCARB, AIBD, CPHC from Architectural Resources, the homeowners selected a Mitsubishi Electric mini-split heat pump system for its versatility and scaled-down size. 

Based on the region’s climate, their heating and cooling system selection was one of the most important features the homeowners needed to consider. Mitsubishi Electric’s Hyper-Heating INVERTER® (H2i®) technology presented the perfect solution to withstand the below-freezing temperatures while maintaining high-performance home standards for any season. 

“Hyper-heating technology allows the unit to extract heat at lower temperatures than most units can go to,” said the installing contractor Andy Bobo, owner, CMR Mechanical. The team installed a mix of ducted and ductless equipment with 2 MSZ Wall-Mounted Indoor Units and 2 SEZ Horizontal-Ducted Indoor Units. 

“The nice thing about Mitsubishi Electric is that people ask for it by name. They’re not just asking for a ductless unit specifically; they’re asking for a Mitsubishi Electric ductless unit,” Bobo added.  

Since completion, the Ann Arbor Passive House has been officially verified by energy rater Building Efficiency Resources (BER). 

“The home attained a HERS Index® score of 14, is ENERGY STAR® CertifiedEPA Indoor airPLUS certified and is projected to meet DOE Zero Energy Ready Home and Passive House Institute US (PHIUS+) status,” said Chris McTaggart, co-owner, BER. 

The project team also plans to add solar panels to the home in an effort to increase energy efficiency and offset total energy use.  

“We are very, very pleased with how the house turned out,” said Eric. “This home is an opportunity to lead by example and it’s already exceeding our expectations.” 


Learn more about the Ann Arbor Passive House here. Check out Mitsubishi Electric’s website for more information.